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Jefferson Memorial Washington DC1988. 4x5 film.. Click to order a print. Next Workshop:Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing: February 11-12, 2017


Welcome to the February 2017 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

The New Year has come with flurries of controversies and national soul searching. It's made me think a lot about Washington DC and pull out some photographs. It is also the anniversary of some events that filled my still 12 year old Star Trek fan mind, the Shuttle, Apollo and our own sometimes fragile hold on life.

This month's View From Here column features a new exhibit, photographs dwelling on NASA, Washington DC and Rocks on the Sea. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.


  • 2017 Workshop Schedule is building with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

    Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing. February 11-12, 2017.

    Enrollment still open for this very special class coming up next weekend. Only offered twice a year.

    Explore black and white conversion, aesthetics and printing in the digital age with a classical landscape photographer who comes from the world of large-format black and white photography and years in the darkroom and has worked hard and early on for the development of high quality digital photography technology.

    Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017. Focusing exclusively on fine-art digital printing, Stephen explores the possibilities of printmaking using Epson inkjet printers. Concentrating on printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag papers, students learn from the digital pioneer how he obtains his impressive results. Stephen covers workflow issues, color management, correcting color casts, adjustment layers, custom profile generation, editing, and inspection, as well as paper visual qualities and the challenges and advantages of printing.

    Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017 (filling fast) Awesome Crater Lake, a total Eclipse of the Sun among strange Painted Hills, check this out, an amazing opportunity! (only 2 spots left)


Steve in daily group discussion with his February Image Editing Workshop.
Photos by Fiona McDonnell.

Scholarships and Mentoring

As part of our ongoing commitment to photographic education, there is one student scholarship spot in many of our classes. Please pass the word along.

For discounted time studying with Steve, keep in mind our Mentoring Program.

With all of our busy schedules and limited budgets, destination workshops or classes become a challenge, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or feedback on some new work. We want to remind you of our Virtual Online Consulting Program. This service allows all of you out there around the globe to consult online live with Steve on technical, aesthetic and workflow issues using Skype and your webcam.

Our Essays and Tutorials from the past couple of years can now be found on our Newsletter Archive and some on Google Blogger.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the National Parks Gallery, and the Exquisite Earth exhibition with its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1. We invite you to join us on a workshop, rent lab space, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer. We value your input.


Workshop Testimonials

FEATURED PRINT February 2017


Cloudscape and Moon. 2016.
Canon EOS-5DSr.

Cloudscape and Moon. 2016
Canon EOS-5DSr

9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

The sky was filled with pillowed clouds with the moon rim lighting each fold. It was an amazing sight.


Workshop Schedule
Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing: February 11-12, 2017
Critique Session. February 23, 2017 7 to 10pm
Lecture: Digital National Parks Project. Image Flow. Mill Valley, CA.
Thursday March 2nd. 7pm
Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017
Flora and Form. April 6-8, 2017
Pacifica Nature's Gem. May 6-7, 2017
RAW to Print Bootcamp June 5-9, 2017
Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017


Linda Mar Bay, just down the road from Stephen Johnson Photography.


Speaking and Exhibition Events (see below)

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Islands and Sun. 2016
Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II

Farallon Island Mirage and Separating Sun.


Purchase a print of this photograph


Computer History Museum.Make Software Exhibit, Photoshop Section Featuring Steve's Print.
Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II

by Stephen Johnson


New Exhibit at the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA opened the new exhibit Make Software in January. Photoshop is featured in the exhibit along with some of my work and tools.

The exhibit has been in development for four years and is really quite entertaining to walk through. I am proud to have the museum collect and display my work as part of Photoshop's history and I was happy to loan them a Kodak DCS460 and a BetterLight Scanning back (thanks to Michael Collette).

Check it out.


steve and ehibit

Steve with the Interpretive Photoshop Video. Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. 2017.
Canon EOS-5DSr.


Photoshop Exhibit Video. Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. 2017


mono lake and sierra

A BetterLight Scanning Insert for 4x5 cameras, its Kodak sensor, and a Kodak DCS460. Steve used these devices from 1994 and onward through the 1990s in his digital landscape photography.



NASA, Washington DC and Rocks on the Sea

This last month brought forward a set of images that I thought I would share in this month's newsletter.

50 years ago on, January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 capsule caught fire and Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee perished. Even as a boy, I remembered being very effected by their loss. It was important to me to visit the launch site where the fire occurred and pay my respect when I visited in 1997. It was a very emotional experience, feeling the place was a bit abandoned and somewhat forgotton.

After initially posting a black and white version of the Apollo 1 site to my Newsfeed and social media, I ended up reposting it with more color in the photograph. The muted color reminds me of the starkness of the light, and the fading reminds me of the loss.

It has taken many years to go back through the work. Here is a viewing gallery of unfinished images. These photographs are important to me and I wanted them to be seen regardless of their editing stage.



Apollo 1 Site, Launch Complex 34. Kennedy Space Center, 1997.
Kodak DCS460c.

Washington DC

I’ve been thinking a lot about Washington DC lately, as I’m sure many of you have. The Jefferson Memorial is one of my favorite places in DC and on my last visit in October, Jefferson’s words once again moved me, staring down at the actual Declaration of Independence and later at the memorial itself.

Going to Washington has always stirred deep feelings of love for this country and deep respect for its aspirations. It is at the same time a reminder of how far we have traveled to fulfill those promises, and how much distance there is yet to go. We have always been a great experiment. My photography doesn't easily address these feelings.

rain forest

Jefferson Memorial Poster. 1993


I’ve always loved this photograph I made in the mid-1980s during my first excursion to Washington with my 4x5 camera. I was proud of the photograph and felt it distilled the elegance of the memorial’s design into the composition. I often use it as an example of leading line, movement, and counter movement.

As we are readying the lab for our Black and White Vision and Printing course Feb. 11-12, the photograph came to mind again as it was one of the first digital scans I made on the Leafscan 45 in 1992. It was often used to test early digital black and white printing techniques and was made into a poster in 1993 using the duotone feature in Photoshop. I lobbied for the Duotone capability and wrote the demo curves that ship with Photoshop to this day. In my 2006 book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography, I devoted a whole chapter to Duotones.

For most of us, Black and White photography is where our first seduction by photography began. It is my first love of the medium and has been part of my work for 40 years. My color work is more well known and that is fine, but the abstraction and stepping out of the literal into the monochromatic, remains fascinating. Perhaps even more so today because of the wild translations from color-filtered sensors into black and white that are now possible. Demonstrating some of those possibilities is the most fun of teaching the Black and White workshops. Of course, seeing a student holding a beautiful print of their work, in their hands, is the best.

Mixing the DC state of affairs with a photograph, a class, and a poster, all seems a bit odd. These are odd times. But in trying to live my life in the arts, everything that is in my mind ends up influencing the vision. Perhaps that is how it should be, but sorting out seduction and angst is not a clear path. It is about finding some direction that satisfies the aspiration to communicate, express oneself and feel that the art has the potential to make a difference. Any difference is usually small, but sharing witnessed beauty and its expressions is much of what binds us together.


ubeheebe hills

Supreme Court Cloaked. Washington DC. 2013.
Canon 1DS III.

A scene I found compelling; the highest court in the land draped in a false front picturing the real court.


Washington Monument Encased. 2013.
Canon 1DS III.


My 2013 visit found the Washington Monument appearing to be trapped by scaffolding. It barely looked real. I certainly remember the summer heat that day, with the high humidity. It was oppressive.

...continued top of right column of the essay


Redtail Hawk in Flight. Mussel Rock. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

When out at Mussel Rock at the north side of Pacifica, I am always on the lookout for the Redtail Hawks that hangout nearby. They often hover in the wind, almost stationary above the cliffs. I cannot resist the endless permutations of movement, wing and looking out for prey below.



Tobin Tunnel (hole in rock) and Surf. Mussel Rock. 2016.
DJI Phantom 4 Drone.

The Tobin Tunnel through the coastal cliffs provides a telling story of how attitudes about nature have evolved in the last 140 years and the power of the Pacific Ocean to overpower our plans.

San Francisco banker Richard M. Tobin wanted a more civilized route from his summer residence in what is now Pacifica, meaning a roadway that would accommodate a carriage. There was one obstacle, the tough outcrop of the Franciscan formation known as Mussel Rock. No problem, said Tobin and a few friends, who subscribed five thousand dollars to the first effort to defeat the intransigent ocean. It would be man over nature. The county newspaper applauded Tobin's efforts in 1874: "Since the birth of San Mateo County we have heard, times without number, of the utter impossibility of constructing a wagon road or railroad along the ocean coast." The solution was four separate tunnels, with a total length of 400 feet, blasted through the rock to a width and height of ten feet. The pounding surf and loose soil defeated that early effort a short time after the tunnels were completed

from The Left Coast: California on the Edge
By Philip L. Fradkin



Planter. Ford Edsel. Flora Grubb. San Francisco. 2017.
Canon EOS-1D
x Mark II..

There is wonderful nursery in San Francisco called Flora Grubb. It is filled with living wonders, great coffee, plus a Ford Edsel as a planter.


Bromeliad. Flora Grubb. San Francisco 2017.
Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II.

Recently at SJ Photo

Getting ready for my Black and White Printing class next weekend. This means cleaning printheads, checking ink supplies and rechecking for system and other updates. We've debated over the years whether to build the lab, then how to maintain it, and still come back to the idea of providing a workstation for each student that gives them all of the softwares, tools and space they need to work. In prep for class I need to make sure built-in black and white printing modes are working properly on my Epson, HP and Canon printers, double checking connections to the Quad-tone RIP and the very impressive ImagePrint RIP which we have running on every machine. As ImagePrint now supports the new Canon Pro1000, we are configuring that as well.

We're looking forward to some wonderful black and white prints.


ubeheebe hills

Ocean Beach near Cliff House. San Francisco. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

Recent Studio Scene

Thanks to so many kind words of well wishes for my Golden Retriever Sandy. She is hanging in there.


Last month, my new Space Shuttle processing project became a full fledged plunge into getting the photographs accessible. It has now resulted in some unedited galleries that at least have some preliminary interpretations laid on them.

I am always reluctant to show anything other than finished work. Sometimes the need to make a body of work known and share experiences means I have to let go a bit and put some images out there. Here is my new home page on the Kennedy Space Center work from 1996 and 1997.


smith rock

Steve and Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-75) on Launch Pad 39B.
Kennedy Space Center. 1996.
Kodak DCS 460c

Seeing all of the photographs, I naturally relived some of the experiences. The level of access I had made me feel very lucky. Out on the Launch Pad, I could not help accepting the offer of a "I was there" photograph next to the Columbia Shuttle. Thanks to the NASA Pubic Relations man for tripping the shutter.

More profoundly, as I walked around the shuttle that day in 1996, dreaming of spaceflight, thinking about the 12 year boy that I once was, and my own son and daughter, then 8 and 6, I knew I would not trust my life to the vehicle before me.

Of course, it didn't consciously dawn on me, that only 6 years later, this very shuttle would burn up during re-entry killing all 7 on board. Now, even 21 years after walking around on the Launch Pad, the sense of danger that day is haunting.

As I'm writing on February 3, 2017, I clearly remember the early morning of February 1, 2003 when the Columbia was lost. It's loss remains tragic, and from walking around the orbiter that day so long ago, very personal.

In memory of the Crew of Columbia STS 107:

Rick D. Husband
William C. McCool
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Michael P. Anderson
Laurel B. Clark
Ilan Ramon

mono lake and sierra


Many years before, on July 4, 1982, I watched the Columbia (STS-4) land at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert of southern California. I clearly remember the double sonic boom as the spacecraft flew faster than sound above the desert landing strip. It turned and shortly transformed into the delta-winged flyer from the mere dot when we first caught glimpse of it.

On that same day, the Challenger took off on top of its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) on its way back the Kennedy Space Center. Although it didn't seem so at the time, it now seems a darkly fortuitous day for these Shuttles to have crossed paths. The Challenger lived for another four years and flew nine more missions becoming something of a workhorse for the fleet. Tragically, the 7 crew members and spacecraft were lost shortly after a too cold January 1986 launch, violating launch rules, allowing rocket seals to fail.



Space Shuttle Challenger on Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 747 Transport.
Edwards AFB. July 4, 1982.
Mamiya RB67 with Agfapan 400 film. Digitized by Canon 5DSr.


As I read through this newsletter, I'm weighed down by Washington and the Shuttle stories. The gifts for me has been the extraordinary privilege of seeing our capitol and getting such a close view of our amazing Space program. It is tragic for crew and ships to be lost, it is also amazing that our 5 orbiters flew 134 missions from 1981 to 2011.

It is a great honor to have my work featured in the Computer History Museum, and good to revisit many of these photographs and the memories they bring.


please email your comments to us




Consulting Programs, Speaking and Exhibition Events


Virtual Education: Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well. Readers of this Newsletter can still get a discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.

Our One on One Program links you up with Steve at his bay area studio, or when he is on the road near you. Keep an eye on when Steve will be near your town.


Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there over the next  few months.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display

Canon Sponsors Steve to speak at Universities, Colleges, Photo Groups and various events around the country. If you would like more information on arranging for Steve to do a Canon sponsored event, go to: Canon SJ EOL talk



In January, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA opened an exhibit Make Software which features Photoshop, and consequently video interviews with Steve and others, one of Steve's first digital view camera prints and features some of his equipment.

In 2013, the Computer History Museum interviewed Steve at his studio for the Make Software Exhibition opening in February. Here is excerpt of that interview.

Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd
Mountain View, CA 94043


Steve Lecturing with George Harrison at Photo Plus.
New York City. February 2016.
Photo by Dan Neri.

Custom Workshop Scheduling

People often want to take workshops and the dates just don't match up with their schedules. Sometimes they watch the newsletter and webpage for years for their interest, free time and the workshop to all coincide. We've decided to be proactive in creating a forum for potential students to tell us what you need and when you can take a class. Please email us with workshop ideas and suggestions.

More formally, we are experimenting with a workshop poll to determine when interested people can make particular workshops they really want to take.

Currently we have up a few workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products


2017 Pacifica Calendar

20 scenes in and around Pacifica, California where Stephen Johnson Photography is located. Full page trail map included. Printed on a color laser digital press.

11" x 17"

To order directly from MagCloud Printing

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.


To Purchase



gift certificate

Life Form Note cards

5x7 inches (sold-out, on backorder)



Click to Purchase

12 image Note card set with envelopes featuring photographs from Steve's new Life Form work.

Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press


gift certificate

National Park Note cards

note card

National Park Color Note card Set
Stephen Johnson
12 cards/envelopes $20 set

From "With a New Eye" Beautiful 300 line screen offset reproductions with envelopes in clear box. A great gift.


gift certificate



Please come visit us at our gallery and see our original prints in person. The subtle detail of the prints and the beautiful texture of the fine art paper have to be seen to be understood. And while you're here, browse through our books, cards, posters, and specially priced prints.

We're happy to mail you a copy of our product catalog, just send a note to or call us.

We're located at:

Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 355-7507



Pacifica Center for the Arts from Linda Mar Boulevard

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Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044 650 355-7507

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Last updated on June 27, 2019 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2017, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide